Life as we know told by Heather

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Our weekend with mass transit

So we just spent a childless weekend (thanks Mom and Anthony) in Kentucky and were actually able to avoid using our car for the whole weekend. That's a great thing these days when you consider the price of gas. The transit authority has a shuttle system that takes people between Covington and Newport via Cincinnati. It's only $1.25 per person per ride, which ends up costing much less than the gas money and parking fees we'd have incurred otherwise. It takes longer, of course, but if you're there for leisure and don't have anywhere to be at a particular time it works out pretty well.

The trip was for our 10th anniversary and we had a nice time even though it was really hot. I of course took lots of photos.

This is our self portrait from our balcony. Our second balcony. Our first room we did not deem acceptable, as it didn't quite fit the description of "river view room." So we got a new room a little higher and on a better side of the building. Apparently checking in right on time does not give you the first pick of choice rooms when a lot of the housekeeping staff has called off and most of the rooms aren't ready yet. Enough said about that.

Here are a few other views from our room. The first is looking northeast towards Cincinnati. You can see the Reds' baseball stadium on the Ohio side. The blue and white curved building is a new high rise condominium building called The Ascent. Apparently Sarah Jessica Parker has purchased a condo there, but don't know if that's true or not.

The second view is to the northwest. The bridge is I-71/75. For as close as we were to it the noise wasn't so bad. There were double glass doors and it was loud if they were open but when the doors were closed you could only hear the traffic when the AC wasn't on, and it still wasn't that loud. We kind of like white noise and have always owned homes near an airport, so it was okay with us.

Jason had never been to Fountain Square in Cincinnati, and it has been remodeled some since I was there last, so we got off the shuttle to walk around there for a little bit.

After that we headed off to Newport, KY to check things out. They have Newport on the Levee which is kind of boring compared to Easton here in Columbus. It's next to the aquarium though which looks pretty nice. We didn't want to tour the aquarium without the kids but we did go into the gift shop and look around. Most of the restaurants there were chains and I had kind of wanted Italian anyway, so we took the advice of the hotel manager and walked 6 blocks to Pompilio's.

Even though we saw practically no people on the way there, it was very crowded when we arrived. This is where the locals eat and they are known for their homemade marinara sauce, meatballs and pastas. It's also where they filmed the toothpick and pancakes scenes from the movie Rain Man. I didn't think I got much food for the money, but it ended up working out since I couldn't take leftovers with me anyway. And they had soft butter which ranks high with me. I don't like going to restaurants where the butter's hard and you rip the bread trying to spread it. Jason got more value for his meal. He had a meatball hoagie with fries and a salad and I had homemade cheese ravioli. The sauce was fantastic and I wanted to buy some but it had to stay cold so I wouldn't have been able to get it back to the hotel.

Newport is a little boring and desolate, but I will say it is very clean. My beaded flip-flop broke after dinner and I had to walk six blocks back to the shuttle, and not once did I have to step around any glass or other debris. At that point we kind of had no choice but to go back to the hotel but once we got there I got different shoes and we took a walk to the gas station for snacks. Jason went out on the balcony to take nighttime photos of the skyline and realized there were fireworks going off over the river. Apparently the Reds put them on after Friday home games.

The next day we got to sleep in and then headed off to a place that I read about in the local paper. I'm a huge conniseur of French toast and don't make it well myself, so I had to have what I read about from a local Newport restaurant called Mokka. It was French toast battered in corn flake crumbs with a creme brulee topping and bananas. Upon arrival the place was a bit scary because it's attached to a banquet hall that can best be described as a cross between 40's glamour and bad 80's decorating. They had just switched locations and I don't know why they share the space with the banquet hall, but for whatever reason it was pretty tacky in there (although the tablecloths were cute).

Anyway.....Jason's not a huge fan of breakfast food but he did well at hiding his lack of interest. I think he was so hungry at that point that he didn't care. But now he can't stop telling people about the French toast HE had. It was battered in graham cracker crumbs and topped with cheesecake topping, cherry pie filling and whipped cream. I had mine a la carte but he had the whole meal and the potatoes were fantastic as well. They were coated in something that made them nice and crispy. If we are ever back in Newport we will definitely eat there again, even if it's still pink and neon and chintzy inside.

After breakfast we headed off to our next adventure. We had originally planned on riding riverboat with the lunch buffet, but we didn't plan in advance because we wanted to wait on the weather, and then once we were there it was booked. There was just a riverboat ride with no buffet but it was at 11 am and we weren't sure we could get up and catch the shuttle and get there in time. So we opted for the Ride the Ducks tour. This had only started a few days before so was very new. It was a few dollars cheaper than the riverboat tour and you get kazoos shaped like duck beaks, so we figured we'd end up with souvenirs for the kids as well. This was booked every hour until 4:30 so bought some tickets and hung out at Newport on the Levee for awhile. Jason went to GameWorks where he won the kids some more trinkets and we also went to Barnes and Noble. Then we found a sno-cone booth outside so we each had giant sno-cones. They had at least 30 flavors. Jason had wedding cake and I had strawberry-coconut. They were perfect on a hot day. There was also a kiosk that sold body jewelry and I got a great deal on some new belly button rings, which came at just the right time because my favorite one broke about a month ago. That was pretty much the most exciting shopping we came across, with the exception of some handmade papers and statues from different countries.

Then we got in line for the boat ride. Although it was a little cheesy, it was actually lots of fun, although I must admit I had reservations about something that can drive and be a boat at the same time. There's something very Thelma and Louise about just driving into the river. Our captain and tour guide were slap-stick funny, though informative, and there was also music. We also came across a wedding party taking photos so we had to drive the boat over there and quack at them with our kazoos. Then their photographer tried to take a picture of them with us in the background. I suppose that's one of those "you had to be there" moments.

The funniest thing I saw was on the way back to Newport while the boat was driving in front of the baseball stadium. It was a game day so all the people who sit downtown with their signs that say "Need Help" or "Will Work for Food" or "God Bless" or whatever they say, had worked their way down to where all the people were, as opposed to staying up at Fountain Square. (I hestitate to call them homeless because they've done stories here where they spy on these people and watch them walk off at the end of the day to their Mercedes parked down the street). Had my camera been out I would have taken a picture of this particular man because he had the best sign ever. It said, "Why lie, I just want a beer." Jason said he would have given him a dollar just for being honest.

And yes, we bought the overpriced souvenir picture of ourselves when we got back. Although I was able to talk Jason out of the photo keychains.

Next we went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. There was a revolving restaurant at the top of our hotel, so we'd made reservations for 8:30 in hopes of being up there for both daytime and nighttime viewing. We figured out you have to be up there about two hours to make one full rotation. Since we were up there so late and they didn't need our table they let us stay for awhile so we could rotate some more and see the skyline. The food was very good and again, more soft butter. I think they sprinkled it with parmesan cheese, too. It made me happy.

For dinner, Jason had a casar salad, filet mignon with butter sauce and macaroni and cheese. I had a BLT wedge salad and crab cakes with a red chili aioli. We got a chocolate opera torte for dessert.

Covington bell tower

Cincinnati skyline

My blurry version of the stadium, suspension bridge and Ohio River

Of course it wouldn't be me if I didn't take some silly pictures as well. Though there weren't enough of them, the elevators in our hotel were very fast, and they were pretty. They were covered in wood and had brass handrails.


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